The other day we were getting ready for work and I noticed that Kish flossed her teeth before brushing. I follow the opposite approach. My morning routine is inviolate: first brushing, then flossing, then use of the mini-bottle brushes for the “food trap” spaces between my teeth, and then finally pressing this weird rubber tip device against my gums. (Why do I do all of this stuff? My dentist recommends it and says I will lose my teeth if I don’t spend every waking hour focused with laser-like intensity exclusively on dental care issues.)
Kish’s use of a different approach made me wonder whether there is a “right” order to the brushing and flossing activities. Surprisingly, it turns out that there has been a lot of chatter about this. Some people say floss first, so that the brushing can whisk away the plaque that has been loosened by flossing. Others say brush first, and then the flossing will sweep away the remaining toothpaste grit. I brush first because I am desperate to get rid of the disgusting morning breath in my mouth before I do anything else.
Some quick internet research determined that the American Dental Association has actually considered this issue. They conclude that it really doesn’t make any difference what order you follow, so long as you both brush and floss. I briefly wondered whether any research had been done before this pronouncement was issued, or whether it was of dubious scientific merit — like the chewing gum ads that said 7 out of 10 dentists recommended a particular gum for their patients who chew gum. Then I realized that it was an incredibly boring topic, anyway, and I had spent more than enough time getting to the bottom of it.
Earlier this month Kish and I wrote our last college tuition check. It is one of those milestones that you don’t fully appreciate until you have reached it — and then you realize that it means a lot, and in unexpected ways.
Of course, college graduation is an achievement for the student, the culmination of four years of classes, tests, labs, papers, deciding on majors, and thinking about what you want to do with your life (among other college-related activities). It also is an achievement for those parents who have footed some or all of the bill for the education the graduate has received. For those parents, the sense of accomplishment probably is similar to the feeling people used to have when they made their final house payment and had a party in which the couple lit aflame the mortgage papers. As proud as Kish and I have been of Richard and Russell and their fine college careers, we also should be proud of ourselves.
Yet, for all of the positive feelings that come with signing that last tuition check, there is an even stronger feeling of wistfulness and — to be perfectly blunt — advancing age. When your kids have graduated from college you can’t really consider them to be kids any more. They will always be your children, but now they are adults. You will never watch them play a Little League game again, or help them with their homework, or take them to the 8th grade dance class. They will move on with their lives, and you will be more of a spectator than a participant — like the initial guest on the old Tonight Show who began in the seat next to Johnny Carson and ends the show four guests away at the end of the couch, next to Ed McMahon.
As much as I have looked forward to being done with college payments, I now find myself wishing that the day hadn’t come quite so quickly.